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Some time ago, I laid a complaint with CAA regarding an incident in which a drone was knocked out of the sky by a group of trampers throwing stones.
This incident was well documented in the media at the time and the evidence was seemingly very clear and irrefutable that the trampers had broken the law. It is illegal (under the Civil Aviation Act itself) to "endanger an aircraft or any person in an aircraft".
Indeed, CAA themselves have acknowledged that such an act is illegal to down a drone, even if it is flying over your own property.
Likewise, when a drone was shot down in Nelson last year, it was police who bought charges, not CAA (as I understand it). Those charges were thrown out, perhaps because it was not CAA who prosecuted the violation.
There was also another incident in Nelson in 2015 when a drone was shot at during a speedway event. To the best of my knowledge, no charges were laid in this instance.
So it seems that CAA is being rather "selective" in enforcing its regulations and the diktats of the Civil Aviation Act. Apparently it's not that big a deal to shoot at or shoot down a drone.
However, there *are* things involving drones that do merit investigation and possible action by CAA.
Yes, we're talking about *MY* flying activities.
A couple of days ago I received an email from a CAA investigator. That email asked me all sorts of questions about three flights that appeared on one of my YouTube channels.
It seems *I* am being investigated!
That's right, allegations that an old man flew some toy-grade quadcopters over grassy fields and a lake merit far more of CAA's valuable investigative resources than cases where people have actually brought down unmanned aircraft using guns or other projectiles.
The nature of the questions being asked is very telling and speaks to a "fishing" exercise, designed to have the respondant incriminate themselves by confessing to alleged infringements for which there is actually insufficient evidence to mount a case.
Take a moment to watch this video, in which I go through the email sent to me and the response I have come up with to the questions being asked.
Now, as CAA have put it to me in their email, they "are obliged to investigate any complaints to establish if any rules have been breached".
Fair enough... but why has there seemingly been zero action taken in respect to the complaint I laid back in February regarding the National Park incident, but they are now investigating me?
How can it be that allegations that an old man flew some toy drones over a lake or a grassy field seem to have been given a higher priority over a very clearly evidenced (by the media and the report of a government agency (DOC)) infringement not only of CAA's own regulations but of the very Civil Aviation Act itself?
Why is it that CAA can't even be bothered laying charges against those who actually boast about shooting or knocking aircraft from the sky -- yet they dedicate so much time chasing someone who is perhaps one of the biggest proponents of informed and safe drone flying in the world?
CAA can't have it both ways I'm afraid. If they *are* obliged to investigate every complaint then why has my complaint seemingly been ignored? If they're not obliged to investigate every complaint then why are they chasing me for (as you can see from my video) doing absolutely *nothing* in breach of the regulations?
Now it may just be utter coincidence, but I notice that these complaints and subsiquent CAA investigations have only come since I started advocating for regulatory reform and advising people around the world that they need to push back against regulatory over-reach in the area of drone and model flying. Perhaps I've upset someone? Perhaps I'm seen as a threat to the hitherto unfettered ability for regulators to simply make rules without effective consultation and without justifying those rules by way of a risk analysis.
Or is it the huge multi-national corporations that are rather blatantly seeking control and dominance of the 0-400ft chunk of airspace used by models/drones which was previously worthless but now represents an asset of immense value? Are regulators boughing to pressure from some very large wallets and influential lobbyists? Might they believe that an effective strategy to mitigate my actions could be to try and find me guilty of some kind of rule-infringement in the hope it damages my credibility with the community I rally for?
And here's the really concerning thing...
Note that CAA has not once mentioned the S word: SAFETY.
Their investigation is clearly unconcerned with safety, only compliance with regulations that are woefully outdated and not fit for purpose. Any organisation or person who believes that regulations alone are the solution to ensuring safety is, themselves, unfit for purpose.
Stay tuned, I will be keeping everyone informed with the progress of this investigation and I fully expect I'll get a polite response back saying that CAA is happy with my level of compliance and the case(s) are closed.
If not... well we'll let the courts decide if CAA is doing their job properly.
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